This steak, which is cut from the chuck (shoulder) area, remained “undiscovered” for quite some time. The flavour associated with this type of steak, which sits close to the prime rib, is very reminiscent of the well-known rib eye steak. And in terms of tenderness, it is in no way inferior to the better-known cuts when seared and carved, which makes it a great alternative to fillets and the like.
The international terms
- Germany – Schaufelstück/Mittelbug
- Austria – Schulterscherzel
- France – Paleron
- Italy – Copertina di Spalla
- UK – Top Blade Roast/Butler's Steak
- USA – Flat Iron
How did the flat iron get its name?
It owes its striking name to its rather unusual shape, which resembles an old-fashioned iron. This steak from the shoulder area gets this distinctive shape from the butcher's cut – the butcher cuts the piece from the chuck (where it lies hidden under the mock tenderloin, the thick and middle shoulder) of the cow and removes the tendon in the middle. With the blade, this creates a flat, relatively firm steak in terms of consistency which can be made almost as tender as a fillet when prepared correctly. The tip of the flat shoulder section is one of the best cuts that the cow has to offer – it is the most marbled and, therefore, a special treat.
How does it differ from other beef cuts?
The flat iron surprises the palate with its unexpected texture and strikingly powerful aroma, which is partly due to the strong blood flow that courses through this area from the shoulder blade. Without a doubt, the flat iron is one of the most underrated cuts of beef and one for which we should definitely show more appreciation.
Great reasons to go for flat iron include:
- unbeatable value for money
- its strongly pronounced marbling
- easy handling during preparation
- a consistency that resembles fillet – with an even more intense flavour
Why did the flat iron remain undiscovered for so long?
Outside of the USA the flat iron was – for a long time – literally grouped together with the surrounding tougher cuts used only in braising. It is nestled within the shoulder, an area of the animal that is subjected to a lot of stress every day and which is constantly exposed to great force. In other words, not exactly where one would expect to find tender meat suitable for searing.
One final “disqualifying” feature is the thick sinew that runs through the entire muscle. Before people came up with the idea of simply removing it cleanly to get at the super-tender steak attached, they simply declared the entire cut to be perfect as braising meat, given that the sinew softens after a few hours in the cooking pot, thus making it edible.
Only when considered on its own did we stumble on the idea of refining this rather inconspicuous piece of meat by doing the necessary paring work. And with that came the birth of the flat iron steak.
Steaks cut from a cow’s working muscle groups
For a long time, experts also believed that only the tender and unstressed muscular parts of the animal were suitable for use as perfect steak meat. The flat iron’s entry onto the scene thus marks a clear reversal to this trend. From a culinary point of view, it is worth taking a closer look at individual cuts of beef and examining them for their muscular characteristics.
And, for reasons of economy, an increasing number of new cuts are being sought in order to be able to offer a greater number of cuts as steak meat. As a result, beef is gaining more appreciation and our previous knowledge of steak cuts continues to evolve.
How is the flat iron prepared?
The flat iron is very easy to prepare thanks to its rather thin texture. If grilling on a gas grill, for example, preheat it to a high temperature and then sear the flat iron on both sides over direct heat. The roasting aromas are important for creating a well-rounded taste. After the initial searing place the steak in a less intense, indirect heat zone on the grill where it should be allowed to cook to a core temperature of approximately 54°C. This can be monitored with the help of a simple digital thermometer. After a short resting time (about three minutes), it should be sliced across the grain. Sprinkle with a little sea salt to bring out the distinctive flavour of this cut.